Tag Archives: Japanese

Rolling in the Deep

I was uber excited to hear about Sushi Shop opening.  This sleek and modern French import planted itself onto Madison Avenue a few short weeks ago.   Well known throughout France, this fast food sushi chain boasts over 90 stores in Europe.  With an extensive menu accompanied by mouthwatering glamour shots of fresh fish, this place had me more than intrigued; it had me anxiously awaiting its opening.  So, with high expectations, and an empty stomach, I made my first, and last, trip to Sushi Shop.

Let’s see, how can I explain the disappointment that is Sushi Shop? I got it.  Have you ever gotten a gift, wrapped so beautifully, that you were expecting something spectacular, and I mean really freaking awesome?  But, then when you opened it, you realized it was just kind of average, like an ill-fitting cotton t-shirt.  Well, that’s kind of like what Sushi Shop was for me.  A present wrapped so beautifully I was expecting magic.   Those damn glamour shots.

It wasn’t my high expectations that had me disappointed though.  Even if I hadn’t read about this place weeks ago, studied the menu intensively, and drooled over the pictures, I would have been less than thrilled with lunch.  The sushi was average at best.  I sampled much of the menu, from the pre-packaged platters to the a la carte pieces.   Yes, I did just say pre-packaged sushi.  But it’s more complicated than you think.  During the day, Sushi Shop is a self-serve restaurant.  Okay, okay, the more I think about it, I’m beginning to question my original excitement too.  You can choose from pre-packaged platters, supposedly made moments before you arrive or you can order a la carte, which is made on the spot and brought to your table.  The good thing about the pre-packaged platters:  they come with sides and you get your food immediately.  The bad thing: they totally lose their appeal of fresh sushi.  It might be the freshest sushi in the world, but put it in a paper box with wasabi in ketchup packets, and you lose me too.

One of the rolls I was most excited for was the Foie Gras; I know, I know, another obvious lapse in judgment.  The foie gross was rolled in preserves, then seaweed and rice, and then nuts for crunch.  It was exactly what I would imagine the love child of peanut butter and jelly and sushi to taste like, minus the love.  Not only were the flavors were in disagreeable contrast, the pieces were too large.  Halfway through one piece I almost lost my lunch.  If you decide to ignore this warning and try the foie gras sushi, do not, and I repeat, do not, use the soy sauce.  Seriously, don’t.

The a la carte pieces made a better impression.  The spicy scallop roll was petite.  And sure it was good.  But was it great? No, no it was not.

I also order the TNT roll, which was a combination of tuna, cucumbers and other tired sushi ingredients.  Another average roll.    Last, and definitely least of the a la carte sushi, was the tuna on crispy rice.  If you have ever eaten this dish at a good restaurant, like Nobu or Koi, you know that the rice is supposed to be warm and actually crunchy, as opposed to room temperature and slightly tough.

The side dish was noteworthy, I guess.  Carrot, orange and cilantro salad.  Yes, this is as boring as it sounds.  Oh the poor person who had to peel all those damn carrots.  Note to self – never serve carrot salad.

The entire experience wasn’t a bust though.  The service was truly fantastic.  From the faux-hostess who greets you upon arrival to the bussers, each and every person wants you to enjoy your experience dining at the Sushi Shop, and you feel that.  Unfortunately, service isn’t enough to impress this Bite-Sized Blonde.

And so another one bites the dust…

Sushi Shop
536 Madison Avenue
New York, NY

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Mmm Noodle Soup

Ohh you know that feeling when you are full? Like really, full. Make that really, really full.  But you know it’s all worth it because your belly is happy.  Truly happy.  Like I just won the lotto, never need to work again, going to travel the world and have a million puppies happy.  Yea, that’s what I feel right now.  And it’s all because of Udon West.

Food is a priority, but on a rainy day, convenience can often trump deliciousness.  Sad but true.  But, today, I found my favorite rainy day spot for lunch, and not because it’s convenient, but because it is convenient and delicious.  Udon West is a Japanese Noodle Shop in Midtown.  It’s not hidden, but it’s certainly not a standout either.  Unless you know the awesomeness that awaits you, you are probably going to pass it by.  I know I have a million times.  But today, I changed what a rainy day work lunch means to me forever.

Udon West is all about the udon, a thick flour based noodle.  The noodles take on a form of noodle unknown to the Italians.  Udon noodles are thick and doughy and so silky they are almost sexy.   These sexy noodles are not so sexy to eat though, as they are usually served as a hot noodle soup.  But this is no ordinary soup; it’s a sea of complex flavors that is a salty and satisfying expression of comfort.  Topped with scallions and a thin slice of egg, this soup is a meal in itself.  But, you know there’s more right? Of course there is.  Udon is usually topped with tempura, vegetables or meat.  When it comes to soup, this Bite-Sized Blonde is all about the veggies.

The Vegetable Tempura Udon was everything I wanted it to be and more.  The hot soup was the perfect counterpoint to this dreary day.  One sip of the warm broth and I was an Udon lover.  The noodles were velvety and slurp-tastic and the crispy tempura was music to my ears and tastebuds.  Can you think of anything better on a cool, rainy afternoon? I can’t.   This namesake restaurant brought the heat on a cold day.  There’s really nothing left to say, so I’ll leave you with an all-important quote.  In the wise words of Joey Tribiani…”mmm noodle soup…”

Udon West
150 E 46th St
New York NY
(212) 922-9677

MORE-imoto

There are some neighborhoods in NYC that are known for great food and rightfully so, i.e. the West Village. There are other neighborhoods that aren’t known for great restaurants where you can find them anyway, i.e. the Upper East Side.  And then there are the neighborhoods that are mistakenly known for good restaurants, but really, the great restaurants are few and far between, i.e. the Meatpacking District.

The Meatpacking District is filled with pedestrian chain restaurants.  It’s like a really pretentious and expensive food court.  But in a sea of mediocrity there is one Starr restaurantMorimoto, is one of the few great restaurants in the meatpacking district.

The restaurant has that MPD feel with a large light installation that starts on the first floor and goes downstairs to the bar.  The large dining rooms are filled with a mix of small and large tables, including a communal table.  But the most outrageous MPD-like feature can be found in the bathroom.  Since a true lady never speaks about such things at the dinner table, you’ll just have to visit the bathroom the next time you visit Morimoto.  Take my word for it; the bathroom and the food are worth the trip over to 10th Ave.

The menu at Morimoto is right up my alley, so I was utterly confused as to how to pick just a few dishes.  The omakase, or the chef’s choice, is a multi-course tasting that is designed to allow you to experience the essence of Morimoto‘s cuisine.  I really wanted the omakase, but it was sold out by the time we sat down for our 10:45 dinner reservation.  The knowledgeable waiter helped me select a few key dishes that I would enjoy, as well as my friends with simpler palettes.

We started with the Waygu Beef Carpaccio, which was my favorite dish of the night.  It was drizzled with yuzu soy, ginger and sweet garlic and garnished with leaves of cilantro.  The clean and citrusy cilantro offset the sweet sauce perfectly.  It was a light yet fulfilling way to start a meal.

The Toro Tartare was a dish the waiter said we couldn’t pass up.  And after eating it, I understand why.  Toro is the fatty cut of the tuna, which usually comes from the belly.  So, it is creamier than a regular piece of tuna.  The tartare is chopped finely and placed in a thin layer on a wooden block.  It’s adorned with a dollop of osetra caviar.  As if this wasn’t perfection by itself, it is accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce, wasabi, crème fraiche, and nori paste.  Each bite was better than the last.

Crispy Rock Shrimp Tempura is not a dish I would normally order at a restaurant as celebrated as Morimoto.  But, I am so glad I did.  The shrimp was served two ways, in a spicy, almost buffalo-like sauce and in a sweet, honey mustard like sauce.  They were served with a cool and creamy wasabi aioli.  What could have been an run-of-the-mill dish was anything but ordinary.

Japanese Lobster Fritters might sound like an oxymoron but these tiny little spheres of delicious were a pleasant pop of flavor.  A soft exterior envelops a creamy mixture of lobster, pickled ginger and scallion.  This is a great dish to share, if you can manage not to fight your dinner date on who gets to eat the fifth and final fritter.

Every Japanese restaurant serves sea bass, and Morimto is no exception.  The sea bass was served in a sweet sake kasu with Japanese eggplant and avocado tempura.   The fish was delicate and flaky.  While this dish was nothing different than every other sea bass you’ve had, it was delicious.

So, the next time you are in the meatpacking district, bypass the usual suspects and go straight to Morimoto.  I mean, how can you go wrong with a name that starts with more?

Morimoto
88 10th Ave
New York, NY
212.989.8883

A Little Taste of Tokyo

When you think about going out for Japanese food, you think about sushi, right? Maybe hibachi, but usually not.  Did you know there is another kind of Japanese restaurant altogether?  No, it’s not a hybrid, like a maltipoo.  It’s an entirely different breed.  Yakitori literally means grilled bird in Japanese.  So, a Yakitori restaurant is, you guessed it, place to get several courses of grilled chicken on skewers. Yakitori restaurants can be found all over Japan, or so I’m told.  This Bite-Sized Blonde hasn’t been to Japan yet…one day, one day.   Until then, I’ll just travel a few blocks north to have a little taste of Tokyo.

Yakitori Tori Shin is located on the Upper East Side.  Tori Shin means true chicken.  The restaurant was so named because of their mission to promote the most authentic Tokyo style yakitori experience with the highest quality ingredients.  The restaurant cooks organic chicken on charcoal grills for a unique flavor.  This small restaurant offers 40 different chicken skewers, and lots of veggies too.  For the timid diner, Tori Shin offers “regular” skewers of breast meat and wings.  But, for those a little more adventurous, they offer gizzards, hearts, and livers!  I have a few adventurous bones in my body, so I decided to go with the Omakase, otherwise known as the Chef’s Choice!  The omakase came with pickled vegetables, grated daikon, 6 kinds of meat, 2 kinds of vegetables, a rice dish and dessert.

We started with edamame.  Nothing like a little taste of the familiar to calm your nerves.  The edamame was kept on the branch, which makes for a beautiful presentation.  It is prepared on the grill so it absorbs the smoky flavor. These edadmame were awesome!

The Shitake Mushrooms were delicious, as they always are.  They have a very distinct, woodsy flavor.

The Corn was so sweet.  I love grilled corn.  Other than my corn salad, it is my favorite way to prepare corn.  This did not disappoint!

The Shishitou Peppers rocked.  These tiny peppers are usually mild, but every now and again, you will get a hot one.  The anticipation will drive you wild, and you know how this BSB likes to be kept on her toes.

The Chicken with Scallion skewers were one of my favorites.  The grilled scallions take on a sweet note, and the chicken is smoky from the grill.

The Quail Eggs were so unusual.   Not because they are quail.  Quail eggs taste just like chicken eggs.  But because they were grilled in their shells, they absorb that great charcoal flavor.  These are a must-order!

Neck.  I know what you are thinking.  No way Jose.  But, I have to tell you, it was mighty fine.  The neck tastes like any other part of the chicken.  If you don’t know it’s neck, you would never guess it.  Ignorance is bliss people! Ignorance is bliss.

The Dark Breast Meat was good.  It tasted like many of the rest of the dishes.  Because there were so many interesting dishes to try, this may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

The Meatballs were tender, the wings were flavorful, and the zucchini was sweet and mild.  It’s all about the grill at Tori Shin and they really know how to use it.

The Special rice dish is something I could have lived without.  Not only was I full by the time we got this, but it was soupy.

The extensive Sake list should be noted.  Not a sake expert? Don’t worry, they are at Tori Shin.  Another noteworth attribute: most of the seating is at the chef’s counter, so you get to see a show while you eat! You know how much this BSB loves that.

Need a little more vacation time this summer?  Head up to Yakitori Tori Shin for a little taste of Tokyo. It’s a vacation for your belly!

Yakitori Tori Shin
1193 First Ave
New York, NY
212.988.8408

Bohemian Rhapsody

I’m a sucker for an exclusive restaurant.  Hide the entrance and I am intrigued, but hide the phone number and I’m all yours.   Put down your psych book from freshman year…there are no deep-seated issues here to explore.  I just like to have a little fun with my food.  And boy is there a ton of fun to be found at Bohemian.  Well, maybe not fun, but certainly good food.

This exclusive restaurant, located in the heart of Noho, is for members only.  A members only restaurant, kind of pretentious right? Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, which is true on so many levels for Bohemian.  The entrance is behind a butcher shop just before the corner of I might be lost and I’m not sure I am in the right place.  Once you make it past the entrance, which is a lot less confusing than you would think, you feel like you have walked into someone’s home, which is half true.  Bohemian is located in a loft that was formerly owned by Andy Warhol.

The members’ only policy is somewhat paradoxical; you become a member by making a reservation.  You can make a reservation by getting the phone number from a member, or by emailing the food savvy folks at Bohemian (ny-info@playearth.jp). Introduce yourself in the email and tell them why you want to dine there; don’t forget to put “Visit Enquiry” in the subject.   I actually know someone who this worked for so I can attest to the fact that it’s not a trick to embarrass you.  It’s not easy to get the reservation, but we all know the power of playing hard to get.

So the entrance that alluded to a smoke show was without, but did the food make up for it? You bet it did.  I started with an order of the cucumbers and jelly.   It sounds bizarre, but it was delicious.  The jelly, which was smoky yet light, added an unexpected depth to the common cucumber.

The wagyu beef sashimi was so tender and flavorful; it’s almost hard to imagine ordering cooked beef ever again, almost.  The miso cod was exactly what you expect miso cod to be.  However, it was ordered sans uni gratin so I can’t really pass judgment as the dish was not how the chef intended it to be.  The mushroom salad was enjoyable but totally forgettable, unlike the sweet potatoes.  They were crispy on the outside yet so delicate; what an anomaly Bohemian proved to be.

We all know dinner doesn’t end until the last spoonful of dessert is gone and the cocktails have run dry.  So, dessert was had and cocktails were enjoyed.  Why chose one dessert when you can have a taste of each? Spoken like a true Foodie.  I ordered the assortment of desserts, which included the green tea panna cotta, café latte flan, and sweet potato crème brulee.  The crème brulee was the star of the dessert tray.

I would be remiss not to mention the bartender, Toku, and his innate ability to recommend cocktails.  He suggested a slippery jaguar silk, which was a combination of whisky, among other things I can’t recall.  But, what I can’t forget was the finishing touch to this magnificent concoction: a dusting of toasted almond, which was torched and then shaved over the cocktail.

If I could pick one word to describe Bohemian it would be awesome.  Go to Bohemian for awesome food and an awesome atmosphere, that is if you can get your hands on the awesome phone number.

Bohemian
57 Great Jones Street
New York, NY